A NEW FRONTIER FOR WELFARE REFORM
December 7, 2005
Texas is about to roll out an ambitious program using private contractors to streamline the process of applying for public health and welfare programs. The reform is expected to save taxpayers more than $100 million a year, while making it easier for people who qualify for social services to enroll in programs and claim benefits. Texas is the first state in the country to implement such a comprehensive, statewide reform and it could serve as a model for other states, say Christy G. Black, a research associate, and Joe Barnett, director of publications with the National Center for Policy Analysis.
Designed in the 1960s, the current eligibility system is outdated, inefficient and uncoordinated. For example, according to the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC):
- Currently, each application for a social service must be made in-person at a state office during business hours, and each visit requires an average wait of two to three hours (on days with light numbers of applicants).
- At each visit an applicant interacts with an average of three to four employees.
- In almost three-fourths of cases (72 percent), eligibility is not determined during the initial interview, requiring additional verification and often additional office visits.
- Almost every action in the eligibility process requires a different form and/or notice.
The new system will serve the more than 3.4 million Texans at or below the federal poverty level, and includes programs like Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Medicaid, Food Stamps, the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and Long Term Care (LTC).
Source: Christy G. Black and Joe Barnett, "A New Frontier for Welfare Reform," National Center for Policy Analysis, Brief Analysis No. 539, December 7, 2005.
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